AND not OR*: How Mobile, Social and Web are converging

by Sonali Shetty of Hodges Digital Strategies

*For a refresher on Boolean algebra go here.

Are mobile, social and web three separate entities anymore? Not when you consider the following:

  • The number of smart-phone users, world-wide just crossed the 1 billion mark.  In the U.S., approximately 87 percent use their phones to access the web and other apps (25 percent of whom, primarily use their mobile devices to access the web).
  • More than half of Facebook’s 1 billion users access the platform through their mobile devices, while 18 percent of whom don’t even visit the website.

So, it’s no longer an option to pick a platform, businesses must be on all of them. At Hodges Digital Strategies, our most interesting challenges are design and development at these three intersections: mobile + web, mobile + social and web + social.

Mobile + Web

  • Side-by-side example of website on mobile (left) and mobile-optimized website (right)

    Mobile friendly sites (Sites that function on mobile devices.  These sites have no flash and small image sizes for relatively fast loading. Users may need to zoom in order to use the site.  Newer design and development capabilities are phasing out these kinds of sites in favor of mobile optimized and responsive sites.)

  • Mobile optimized sites (Sites designed to cater to mobile devices. Pared down functionality and navigation elements, large, touch friendly buttons and minimal data entry allow for mobile optimization.  Most mobile optimized sites give users the option to view the desktop version of their website.)
  • Responsive design (Sites that utilize responsive methodologies for web development. A full website that renders seamlessly on devices with various form-factors. Meaning, a separate mobile site is not required – a large three column site on your large screen monitor, with rich visuals and extensive menus, can step down to a single column in a series of steps, responding to various device sizes.)

As more people interact with the web, primarily through their mobile devices, mobile capabilities for your website are no longer optional. While there is no right answer on whether to choose mobile optimized or responsive, we are biased towards responsive design and are incorporating these techniques in pretty much every new site we build.

Mobile + Social

Of the main social platforms, Twitter and YouTube were the most mobile-centric from the beginning, however, the switch to Timeline impacted apps, as they’re not visible via Facebook’s mobile app. To mitigate this (and to aid in app discovery), Facebook announced App Center. Mobile friendly apps that are registered in App Center are now discoverable through Facebook’s search bar. From a development perspective, it does mean that each app needs to also include a mobile version (using any of the above methods). There is slightly more work on the backend, however, with more and more users coming in from mobile, this is the only way for the users to access apps on their devices.

Web + Social

Back in 2010, Facebook introduced Open Graph API (yes, that ubiquitous “Like” button is just a toddler). Social sharing by liking or sharing content on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google +, has been deployed on millions of websites. Sharing also happens in the reverse direction by embedding activity streams from social media onto the web.  Single sign-on (signing up for a web-app via your Facebook or Twitter account) saves us from having to remember yet another user ID and password. However, balance that with the risk of allowing the 3rd party site access to your information and sometimes publish on your behalf. You can control third-party app access via privacy settings on your Facebook account.

This digital convergence is only going to accelerate further and include future platforms. Just think: Google Glass, the Nike+ FuelBand, your car’s dashboard…the fun has only just begun.

The next great expression of “brand love”

by Sonali Shetty

The ultimate expression of “brand love” is an icon on the Home screen of mobile devices.  Our devices are so personal and ubiquitous, that any apps we download and keep, are an extension of our identity.  True enough that many of our devices are a junkyard for apps – long forgotten and seldom used.  But others are so addictive, we wonder how we lived “pre app.”

Checklist from Hilldrup’s Move Pro app

At HDS we just launched an app that I hope will be an incredibly handy resource for many people.  Hilldrup Move Pro (iPhone/iPad), for our friends at Hilldrup Companies, is a full-featured moving platform.  The app is a must-have for anyone contemplating a move.  But, we wanted to make the app relevant to a wider audience.  When creating a strategy for app functionality, we faced a unique conundrum.  How do you extend the life of an app that is built around a discrete event?  You want an app to be a valuable branded tool that people want to access again and again on their mobile device, right?

In looking into consumers’ moving patterns, we noticed that most people don’t unpack their boxes right away.  (True confessions: I still have unopened boxes in my attic six years after stashing them up there.)  So we created the ability for users to visually add items to their virtual box and even take pictures of their items, in order to document box contents.  High value items can be immediately identified.  Finally, users are able to create QR code labels to slap on their boxes.  When a user wants to identify the contents of a box, all they have to do is to scan the label on the box and read the contents. Pretty Cool!  Oh, and as an added security feature, to prevent just anyone from being able to read the QR code, only the Move Pro app on the original device that “packed” the box is able to read its contents.

Some other features and their long-range applications include:

– Ability to notify friends when you’ve moved – applies down the road if your phone number or e-mail address change.

– Currency converter.  For people moving to other countries, this is super useful.  And just as handy for people simply taking a trip abroad.

– Assign a task to a friend – “Honey-do lists” are finally mobile-ized!

Reverse search will be available in the next release. Here’s how it will work – suppose I’m looking for that pair of red shoes I wear over the holidays.  A quick search within the app tells me immediately which box those little babies are in.  That means no more rooting through boxes to find what you’re looking for.  This feature alone transcends moving – it puts a handy organizing tool at your disposal.

We’re pretty excited at what the Hilldrup Move Pro can and will do.  Download it and let us know what you think.  We’re hoping that MovePro will make it to your Home screen.

I Killed My Blog and Why

Jon’s 1.5 is dead.

It was time.

It’s not like I was running out of things to say but the original reason for the blog and the number of voices needed to tell that continuing story has evolved.

Kirk or Picard? Ok, I'm really done now.

A lot has happened in the world of PR, social and digital in the three years of Jon’s 1.5 and a lot has happened at Hodges during that time.  The initial journal that the blog was started to chronicle is over.  Think of the difference as the original Star Trek and TNG.  You might debate Kirk over Picard but the voyage continues and the characters change but the Federation’s prime directive is the same.  Okay, I’ve really pushed the geek envelope here.

So Jon’s 1.5 (the next generation, okay I promise to stop now) is now the Hodges Blog.  You likely noticed the changes in recent posts.

We not only have a new look and feel, also soon be seen in a slight tweak to our agency identity and a major redo of our website, but also in the number of post authors.  Don’t worry (for those who were really losing sleep over this), you’ll still be hearing from me on a regular basis.  But you will also be hearing from all the Hodgers.  The subjects of the posts will range from our culture (Tony’s recent post on our coffee issues) to our work (Elisabeth’s post on our growing luxury practice) and share our expertise (like Sonali and Casey’s collaboration, a  social media cheat sheet for Facebook Timeline for Brands).

We will continue to feature our work like today’s media relations successes for CarLotz in Fast Company and Snagajob in Time, or social media campaigns or mobile app development.  But we will also feature the people behind the work and what they do (and how they do it) to be successful for our clients.

A mentor of mine taught me a long time ago a simple lesson about our business that I try to practice and repeat:  The key to business success is to hire people who are a lot smarter than you and let them do what they do best.  The Hodges Blog will showcase them and by extension show how smart Josh and I were to bring them on board in the first place. 🙂

It is now their time to shine.

So please enjoy the Hodges Blog and try to keep your emotions in check about Jon 1.5.  I hope it served you well.  I know it did me.

The Official Hodges Facebook Timeline Cheatsheet

As a public service (as promised) and also because we’re really swell, here’s the official Hodges Digital “cheatsheet” for Facebook Timeline for Brands.

From the Hodges Digital FB Timeline Cheatsheet

This six-page PDF gives you more than enough information to be “dangerous” as you navigate next week’s official change to Timeline.

It includes advice, shortcuts and key points that everyone should know.

Click here to download the HDS Timeline Cheatsheet

Please feel free to download, share, spread the gospel, etc.

Facebook Timeline for Brands: It’s Crunch Time

by Jon Newman

Don’t be nervous.  Change is good.

That should be the Facebook brand statement.

Just when you get used to things, the mother of all social media platforms changes things up.  No change in recent history has given more marketing folks heartburn as the coming change of Facebook Brands Pages to the Facebook Timeline format.

Timeline for famed soccer club Manchester United.

The change is official in just a few days (March 30) and Jim Belosic does a great job of helping marketing folks face this reality in this blog post on PR Daily.

We at THP and HDS have been spending lots of time getting clients ready for this change as well.  In addition, I’ve been asked to speak to a PRSARVA group about those changes in April (don’t worry I’ll cover Pinterest too).   For some reason I hear seats are going fast so you may want to register here.

I agree with all of Jim’s points but folks really need to focus on:

  • The use of the cover photo as a means to show your brand without being too “promotional.”
  • The increasing importance of custom apps and what they can do to improve the virality of your page.
  • The need to use timeline to tell a creative story and move the conversation forward.
  • The importance of pinning your posts and milestones.

Later this week in this space, we’ll be making a Timeline for Brands “cheat sheet” of sorts available, so look for that by Friday.

Don’t want to give away too many spoilers on my talk but the bottom line is you have about a week….are you ready?

Facebook’s Timeline Cover is valuable brand space

Time to get on my PR/social media soup box and proclaim from on high:


So what do I mean when I say “show your colors?”  My current example (below) comes from my own timeline which is now sporting art work supplied by my fellow Springsteen fans promoting his new album coming out in March.

Think of the “cover” as the new expanded billboard version of your profile picture (interesting article on it here).  Now instead of changing your profile picture to show your allegiance to a cause, team or organization or to promote an upcoming event, you can have it live separately on your cover.  It’s also takes about three seconds to change the cover so you can switch it out pretty easily.

Since people will now see someone’s  Timeline when they seek them out on Facebook, think of how important the cover can be in the promotion of a brand, cause, team or event.  It’s really a low-cost no-brainer.  All you have to do is create and supply your evangelists with the artwork and let them do the viral work for you by sending the photo or illustration to all their friends.

Off the soap box now.  Please return to your normal Friday schedules.

Two great upcoming #RVA events

It’s been awhile since the last post but things have been busy at work and with spring break  (Hogwarts was very fun). I welcome you all back with news of two fun events on the horizon.

Amber Naslund

The first is an honor to be a part of, as we’re sponsoring the event.  She may not know this but there are few people who have influenced me and in turn the direction of our business, than Amber Naslund (@ambernaslund).  Almost three years ago when I dove into the world of social media, Amber was there.  With her blog Altitude Branding, now Brass Tack Thinking, her availability and advice on Twitter, and her welcoming friendship when we met face to face at Blog Potomac, Amber was and is a teacher and mentor on the topics of social media, social business, online civility and fun in general.   In her position at Radian 6, she is a nationally recognized voice in social business.

She is speaking in Richmond at this Thursday’s Social Media Club meeting promoting “The Now Revolution,” the book she co-authored with another personal fav of mine, Jay Baer.  If there is one event to go to this year, it is this Social Media Club event.  Period.

Second, for those who didn’t receive a Facebook or email invite, consider yourselves invited to “Opening Day” at The Hodges Partnership and Hodges Digital Strategies next Tuesday, May 10 at our Shockoe Bottom HQ from 12noon-5pm.  This open house celebrates the renovation and expansion of our physical space.

We will celebrate in true baseball style with hot dogs, popcorn, giveaways and a “first pitch” for clients at 1:05pm.  BTW, we’re still looking for someone to sing the National Anthem so if you can sing it and sing it well, please comment below.

Please RSVP on this Facebook event page or leave a comment below, as we need to know how many hot dogs to order. 🙂

Looking forward to seeing all of you at both events.

Embracing change.

WARNING:  This is one of a recurring series of posts on the topic of change.  If this topic bothers you and/or makes you unconfortable, please stay right where you are.  Literally.

Lots of change in my life recently.  Turned fifty, check.  Moved into new office space, check.  Started a new company that’s doing well, check.

We’ve been spending a great deal with friends and clients talking about change as well.  Our bud, John Sarvay is doing some great things at his business, Floricane, and we spent some time over coffee and diet coke comparing notes.  While we discussed his future plans, I’ve since spent time reflecting on our future.  Not sure where I’ve landed yet but I’ll likely burn some brain cells on spring break mulling it over.

Right now we seem to be in a good place.  We’ve made some great hires.  They and our long-time Hodgers have bonded amazingly and afford Josh and I the time to actually spend some planning, thinking, etc.

We’re noticing that Shockoe Bottom and Richmond are changing as well, for the better.  For those who haven’t been to our neighborhood, the number of apartments being built here is staggering.  It’s not Ballpark development mind you but still the area is changing for the better.

We’ve also been fortunate to be included in some “fly-on-the-wall” discussions on the future of our community and I think I might want to spend a little time on that coming up.  I’ve been having some conversations and I’d like to have some more.  My goal will be to try to connect many of the smart people I know with each other.  I’ve already started a little.  I’m having fun.  I’d like to do more.

As is usual with change, you never know exactly where you’re going until your there.  When you get there it’s time to find somewhere else to go.

We’ve never really had a road map.  We like it that way.  It hasn’t hurt us so far.

Are you changing?

Will digital platforms learn in their old age?

In the past week, I’ve done four speaking engagements, some with my colleagues at THP.  Included in the audiences were students, journalists, PR professionals, small business owners, folks from non-profits, consultants from all walks of life.  A pretty good mix of people.

Some of the focus was on journalism and public relations but in all cases social media was in the forefront.

In all cases though, the message back to me is clear.  We are now in the “mature” phase of the social/digital/online thing we’re living though.

Some observations:

  • We asked a room of small business/non-profits/consultants of they were managing their organization’s Facebook presence.  Last year less than half would have said yes.  This year they ALL raised their hands.
  • We asked the same question about Twitter.  Last year maybe two or three would have raised their hands.  This year ALL of them did.
  • ALL of them where active on LinkedIn
  • Some were managing their organization’s YouTube and Flickr accounts.  Last year most of them couldn’t have even spelled Flickr.
  • Journalists are using Twitter to break stories (not a surprise but always interesting to hear)
  • College students have a much higher level of understanding not only about the platforms and technology but only about their importance to the student’s future and vocation.

All very exciting.  But also the beginning of a cautionary tale.  I know I’ve been beating this drum a little.  Make way because the banging is about to get louder.

More than one person on the business side told us stories about how it used to be easy to get fans on Facebook and get folks to comment.  But now after reaching a certain level that feedback has stopped.  The same on Twitter.  They are finding it harder to start and maintain blogs.

In past posts I’ve talked about the need to ramp up cross-promotion across all marketing platforms to kick start your engagement levels.  I’ve also mentioned that it’s time to increase posts to your Facebook wall because of the increase in speed on most people’s personal walls.  If they blink, they will miss your post so frequency, once a nuisance, is now more important.

In addition, Facebook ads are becoming a necessary tools to grow a “like” base.  Again, social isn’t viral anymore.

All these platforms, Facebook, FourSquare and Twitter in particular, had better listen closely.

They need to make it easier for all customers, not just the big brands, to create ads that grow fan bases, create landing pages that engage, create identities that break through the clutter.  If they don’t they will lose this increasingly frustrated marketing common man who will then go searching for the next big thing.

They will become TV advertising, only catering to those who can afford it and not reaching an ever-growing number of folks who just decide to fast-forward through it.

It isn’t too late but the time is fast approaching.  It is our job as communications pros to help clients navigate these platforms and help them build communities.  Our job is more exciting this year compared to last, but it also challenging and it will also take more time and resources (money) to break through the increased clutter.  We also need the people behind the platforms to create ways to make it easier for all of us.

Would love your thoughts and comments.

Twitter. Dead.

More than one person has come back to me/Sonali after our PRSA Richmond presentation concerned and surprised about our remarks about the future of Twitter.

The interesting thing they told us is after those remarks they spoke to others who agreed with us.

For those who weren’t there, we pretty much said that Twitter was dead.

I know, pretty dangerous blanket statement, huh?

So here’s what we meant (and by we in this case, I mean me because Sonali isn’t looking over my shoulder right now):

  • Twitter has become difficult:  There was a time where you could meet new people, have insightful comments and linked retweeted, engage in conversation.  That has become more and more difficult on Twitter likely because of its growth.  There is too much broadcasting and not enough conversing.  There is too much clutter and spam.  There was a time where a valuable tweet with a link to a cool article was met with conversation and re-tweet.  Now?  Bupkis.
  • Twitter has become siloed:   Which is not necessarily a bad thing, btw.  I am more likely to be talking to my Rutgers friends, or my #nightlybaconchat buddies on Twitter because hashtags make that easy.  Those silos make continuing long-standing conversations easy, it makes starting new conversations hard.
  • Facebook is easy:  And it now incorporates Twitter.  Our colleague Caroline Platt says Facebook has become “the mall of social media” where everything is available and within walking distance.  People will gravitate to where everything and everybody is and by extension stay away from where there are too many detours or boarded up storefronts.
  • Twitter is too constant:  The stream never dies and even with searches and filters it can be too hard to maintain and keep up with.

These are just some of my off-the-top-of-my-head reasons.

For those not willing to buy into my argument, here are some reasons that there still may be some hope:

  • It is still a great way to find specific people in specific areas:  You can track down journalists and others in specific categories using third-party tools like and  The challenge then is to engage those folks in a meaningful conversation.  My argument is that given the breadth of Twitter, that is now much harder than it was two years ago.
  • Twitter is still a great place to share an event:  the Super Bowl, the Grammys, the Oscars, the overthrow of a middle eastern country, Twitter is great for breaking news and reaction.
  • People that want to break news on their own.  See: professional athletes and celebrities.

What I haven’t really addressed so far is brands.  I’m just not seeing it.  Maybe for monitoring for reputation management purposes?  But for branding, engagement, conversation and eventually social commerce,  I’m just not seeing it.

Sorry, Twitter.  After two years as a pretty active user I will continue to tweet every night on my iPad to my friends, neighbors, TweetChat friends and colleagues.  But call me back when I can once again through a quality tweet out into the vast wilderness and get a valuable replay that starts a beautiful friendship.

Okay Twitter lovers, I’m braced for your comments.  Tweet away.  Maybe I will hear you.



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